Once again, Governor Corbett tried to run from the people that matter. On June 9th, the governor made a rare visit to Philadelphia with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for a private fundraiser for his re-election campaign. But he moved the location at the last minute and then refused to show his face to a thousand protesters outside the Comcast Center, where we held a huge rally demanding the governor reverse his $1 billion statewide education cuts, balance his budget with fair taxes, stop cuts to vital programs, expand Medicaid, and close tax loopholes.
Six protesters refused to get out of the street and were arrested trying to block Corbett’s cuts. Police escorted them away as protesters chanted, “Arrest Corbett.” They wore signs around their necks that read, “I’m sitting in the way of Corbett’s cuts!,” followed by their specific budget concerns, including “Fully fund public education” and “Tax the corporations.” Those arrested included a Philadelphia public school parent, three retired teachers, and a local community activist.
Our day started at the Union League in Center City, but we soon learned that Corbett and Christie were sneaking into the Comcast Center to throw us off. Hundreds of protestors, including activists from New Jersey, marched from the Union League to the Comcast Center waving signs and chanting “Corbett and Christie have got to go!” Once reaching the Comcast Center, speakers called on Corbett to adequately tax fracking, stop business tax cuts, close corporate tax loopholes, accept federal money to expand Medicaid, and find other ways to raise the money Pennsylvania citizens need for a functioning state.
The governor has cut $1 billion from education statewide since taking office, including $272 million from Philadelphia schools. He ended the General Assistance program, which provided funds to the temporarily unemployable, including disabled people and others. Corbett also ended the adultBasic insurance program for low-income individuals (which a Commonwealth Court Judge later found unconstitutional). He has refused to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, leaving 500,000 working families without access to healthcare. Medicaid expansion would also add $430 million annually to Pennsylvania’s state budget and add about $3 billion annually to its economy. A Pennsylvania Economy League study finds that expansion will support 35,000 new jobs by 2016 and 40,000 jobs by 2022.
Helen Gym of Parents United told the crowd, “Philadelphia and Newark are the poster-children for failed education reform policies: a three ring circus of round robin superintendents, school closings and underfunding – and Governors Corbett and Christie are the ringmasters.”
“I sat down in the way of Corbett’s cuts because I’m worried about my daughter’s future and all children’s futures in a school system that keeps getting slashed to the bone,” said Andi Perez, the outgoing Director of Youth United for Change and one of the arrested protesters. “I have spent a career fighting for Philadelphia public school students, and things are as bad as I’ve ever seen under Gov. Corbett’s massive budget cuts. We need to say enough is enough.”
Several polls have shown Corbett down over 20 points from his Democratic challenger, Tom Wolf. The Washington Post and other publications have repeatedly called Corbett the most vulnerable governor in the country.